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updated: 3/25/2013 3:23 PM

Simple approach the best option when eating out

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  • Joshua Steckler helps Melynda Findlay navigate the menu at Muscle Maker Grill in Rolling Meadows.

       Joshua Steckler helps Melynda Findlay navigate the menu at Muscle Maker Grill in Rolling Meadows.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Restaurant general manager John Kraniotis helps with food selections, including explaining items that could be prepared, but weren't necessarily on the menu.

       Restaurant general manager John Kraniotis helps with food selections, including explaining items that could be prepared, but weren't necessarily on the menu.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • This is what I ended up ordering -- grilled chicken and steamed broccoli, with a side order of olive oil for the vegetables. That fulfills my macronutrient needs: protein, carbohydrate and fat.

       This is what I ended up ordering -- grilled chicken and steamed broccoli, with a side order of olive oil for the vegetables. That fulfills my macronutrient needs: protein, carbohydrate and fat.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Push Fitness trainer Joshua Steckler and Melynda Findlay eat lunch at Muscle Maker Grill in Rolling Meadows.

       Push Fitness trainer Joshua Steckler and Melynda Findlay eat lunch at Muscle Maker Grill in Rolling Meadows.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

 
 

You've committed to a healthier lifestyle. You're exercising, you're eating well -- you're doing everything right. Then BAM! Friends or co-workers want to go out for dinner.

You want to be social, but you also don't want to be tempted by foods that will ruin all the work you've done toward living more healthfully. What to do?

I recently got a hands-on lesson on how to make good choices when eating out from my trainer, Push Fitness owner Joshua Steckler, when we had lunch at Muscle Maker Grill -- a fast casual-type restaurant with a variety of healthy choices that opened last fall on Algonquin Road in Rolling Meadows.

Good news: You can eat well away from home, as long as you follow a few guidelines, Steckler said.

The top of the list? Keep it simple.

"Good food doesn't have to be complicated," Steckler said. "Always ask yourself where you'll get your protein, fat and carbohydrates from, in that order."

Proteins include lean meats, fats include nuts, avocado and oils, and carbohydrates include fruits and vegetables, Steckler said, and getting a good balance of all those is key to healthy eating.

You also need to keep in mind how your food will be prepared, he added.

"Dry rubs and spices are usually a better choice than sauces or marinades," he said. "Avoid meats with breading or sauces, and stay away from starchy foods such as pasta, potatoes and white rice. Always be aware of sodium content."

I had scoured the menu ahead of time, and once we got there, I asked Steckler what some good choices would be within the bounds of my gluten-free, high-protein eating plan.

The restaurant's general manager, John Kraniotis, also helped with my selection by suggesting some side dishes that could be prepared but were not necessarily on the menu.

Asking questions when ordering food is important, and you shouldn't be afraid to do it, Steckler said.

"You can always ask your server to have foods prepared to your liking, such as no added butter or salt." he said. "If you have food allergies, address that right from the start and see if they can accommodate you. If a bread basket comes out, ask the server to take it back right away and order a healthy appetizer instead, such as shrimp or a fresh salad."

I ended up ordering grilled chicken and steamed broccoli -- protein and carbohydrate -- with a little cup of olive oil to put on the vegetables to fulfill the healthy fat requirement.

That's right -- fats are OK, as long as you choose healthy ones, such as avocado for your salad or olive oil to go with your vegetables, like I had.

But if healthy eating is your aim, it's best to limit eating away from home, Steckler said.

"The best advice I have for my clients is to learn how to cook. The more often you can prepare your own food, the better off you'll be. This way you know exactly what you're consuming."

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